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Bill Delaney: Sense of uncertainty in Palm Beach

Delaney
CNN's Bill Delaney  

CNN Correspondent Bill Delaney has been following the manual recount of presidential votes in Palm Beach County, Florida. Canvassing board officials in the county were preparing to work throughout the night to meet a 5 p.m. EST Sunday deadline for submitting vote totals to state officials.

Q: Is there a sense of urgency as Palm Beach County officials try to finish the recount by the Sunday deadline?

Delaney: There certainly is a sense of urgency here. On the other hand, it can be difficult to discern that sense of urgency here.

In the ... building here in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the recount is going on, there is for the most part a relaxed, good-natured, even at times jovial, atmosphere.

The canvassing board chairman, Judge Charles Burton, said he sees no reason not to bring a sense of humor to the recount, and he's been quite actively at times trying to live up to that.

For example, at one point Saturday evening, the three members of the canvassing board who are doing the counting had a discussion over what amounted to a "scootched" ballot.

You heard about "dimpled chads," "pregnant chads," and "swinging chads!" What a "scootched chad" might be was not clear to observing reporters, nor seemingly to canvass board members themselves.

We await further details on the mystery of the "scootched chad."

On the other hand, as the night wore on, some frustration did start to creep in. Democratic ... member of the canvassing board Carol Roberts scolded a Democratic observer. It was not clear just what the essence of the argument was, but it seemed to boil down to "Let's get on with it!"

So there's both a determination to keep things amiable and, no doubt inevitably, a sense of weariness that may or may not, as the night gets longer, translate into spats.

Q: Is the Palm Beach canvassing board likely to finish the recount by the deadline?

Delaney: The canvassing board will only say it is going to do everything it can to finish. They will not say they will finish, nor will they say they won't finish.

One could speculate though that they have a very difficult task ahead of them.

If they continue at the same pace of about 165 ballots per hour ... it would not seem possible for them to count the many thousands of disputed ballots still remaining.

On the other hand, Judge Burton said they were "in the groove," and seemed to suggest that they would pick up the pace.

But the fact is that as Saturday drifted into Sunday, no one could tell if they would finish the manual count by 5 p.m. Sunday as required by the Florida Supreme Court.

Q: What will happen if the canvassing board can't meet the deadline?

Delaney: It's not clear. Judge Burton suggested the manual count as it stands at 5 p.m. Sunday could be combined with the remaining previous machine count of votes they didn't get to manually.

But whether this would be acceptable to both the Republicans and Democrats was very much an open question.

(There was) a real sense of uncertainty about where the Palm Beach recount would be as of the Florida Supreme Court deadline, and what would happen if the manual recount weren't finished.

What is clear is the Gore campaign plans to contest the results. So it did not seem likely that there would be a real sense of finality in Palm Beach County, despite the recount.


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Sunday, November 26, 2000

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